Why Saying ‘I Don’t Know’ Adds Credibility

Why Saying ‘I Don’t Know’ Adds Credibility
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When you’re working, it can be hard to admit when you don’t know something, especially if you’re talking with a client. However, 42 Floors points out that saying “I don’t know” actually adds credibility in certain cases.

Picture: Matt Baume/Flickr

We all tend to BS our way through certain conversations, and sometimes that means getting to a point where you just don’t know the answer to something. You could continue to pretend or just admit you’re out of your element:

Kiran explained that he likes it when people say I don’t know because it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said. He was already pretty close to making up his mind that he was coming to 42Floors, he just wanted an honest accounting of what we had answers to and what remained as questions…

One place I’ve always struggled to say I don’t know is when talking with engineers about technical stuff beyond my knowledge. No one wants to look stupid so it’s easier to nod your head when you don’t know what someone is talking about. I realise now it creates the opposite effect. Every time I appear to understand something I don’t, it just makes me look foolish.

The fact is, when you say you understand something or have an idea, people tend to believe you. When that happens, they expect results right away. When you admit to not knowing an answer you’ll get better explanations or more time to figure something out.

I don’t know [Jason Freedman]


  • … I use this all the time. Works incredibly. People suddenly realise maybe you’re NOT just being a know it all and might actually know something about it, without pretending like you know everything.

  • The three best things i ever learnt to say are”
    “I don’t know” and
    “I don’t care”

    All three are surprisingly hard to say, but once you do, it’s easy to, and you can accept your own misgivings. There’s no pride lost in saying “I don’t know”, and a lot more respect gained.

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